“You may not be able to solve all road safety problems. But when you help one person by sharing your story, your knowledge, your experience and your ideas, you become part of the solution. So my work with ASR allowed me to be a part of the solution!”
Preventable, unnecessary, irreversible heartache. A speeding vehicle took the life of Afef Ben Ghenia’s brother, Nabil, in December 2011. In February 2013, Afef, a lawyer by training, founded Les Ambassadeurs de la Sécurité Routière (ASR) to make the roads safer for all Tunisians while honoring the memory of her brother. To do this, Afef and her colleagues at ASR focus on seat belt laws, speed reduction, and road safety education.
Since 1986, Tunisians have been required by law to use seat belts on highways and in rural areas. A law issued in 2002 then required all drivers and front seat passengers to use seat belts. However, that law was never enforced. In conversations with urban residents, Afef and her colleagues found that a lack of information about seat belts led most people to believe that seat belts are not needed in congested areas or on smaller roads where slower speeds are the norm. Afef set out to change this misunderstanding through advocacy and education. She was raising awareness about the risks on the roads, but Afef found that talking about the problem was not enough—the public and government officials needed to be convinced that buckling up would improve the safety of all drivers and passengers on Tunisia’s roads.
Afef applied to be an Alliance Advocate because she wanted to improve her knowledge about road safety and to sharpen her strategies for saving lives.
The training in Memphis inspired Afef to take a bolder, more strategic approach to her work. She conducted ‘power mapping’ to identify key decision makers and stakeholders, and she approached them with clearly articulated objectives; 15-minute scheduled meetings with Ministers of Transport and the Interior became hour-long discussions. She used improved communication skills to craft effective messages and she selected effective spokespersons and “influencers” to share those messages. She further expanded ASR’s audience through social media. New approaches to fundraising and presentation helped to generate the additional resources Afef needed to expand the reach and effect of ASR’s message. By drawing more attention to their efforts, Afef and ASR built a coalition of partners and citizens who raised their voices to demand safer roads and enforcement of the 2002 seat belt law. The Government of Tunisia heard these voices and supported this effort in a meaningful way—on 27 April 2017 the law mandating seat belts for all drivers and front seat passengers officially came into force.
Once enforcement was underway, the government officials began monitoring compliance. They found that in 89% of cars at traffic control checkpoints in urban areas, drivers and front seat passengers were using seat belts. Furthermore, in the first two months that the law was in force, there was a 35% reduction in road fatalities from the same period in 2016, and a 44% reduction from the same period in 2013.
Afef and ASR are now working to achieve even greater results through a modification to the law that will also require seat belts for back-seat passengers. Their battle cry is inspiring a nation: Attachez-vous à la vie!